BIOLOGICAL PEST CONTROLS
Insect Weed Control - An insect that is easily
reared in the laboratory and looks like a promising bio-control
agent for velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti), a major weed
in corn, cotton, soybean,and sorghum crops which relies entirely
on seed for reproduction and survival. Studies indicate that
high populations of Niesthrea louisianica, the scentless plant
bug, reduce the germinability of velvetleaf seed by 95 to
99 percent. N. louisianica significantly reduces capsule weight
and seed weight, size and viability. Insect-infested plants
produce an average of just 5 to 19 viable seeds, while plants
with no bugs produce 650-1,047.
Sexually Confusing Insects - While the Oriental
fruit moth is traditionally controlled by insecticides, researchers
say using pheromones to disrupt its mating cycle is proving
successful. The pest, Grapholita molesta, attacks nectarines
and peaches. The new control program relies on male attractant
pheromones that are dispensed from polyethylene tubes over
a 90-day period. Scientists still have questions about how,
exactly, the mating disruption works, but believe it inhibits
males from locating females for mating.
The dispensers, which resemble garbage bag
twist-ties, are looped around lateral branches in the top
third of the tree canopy. Each application requires 400 dispensers
per acre of trees. The average cost of this method is predicted
to be slightly higher than that of insecticide programs, depending
on factors such as number of applications needed and number
of acres treated. In some cases, it can save growers money.
Field trials in California have consistently resulted in less
than 1 percent fruit damage at harvest, a level not significantly
different from that achieved by standard insecticide spray
programs. Another benefit is that beneficial insects are not
disrupted by insecticide sprays.
A Sticky Potato Pest Recipe - Some potatoes
are mustering their natural defenses against insect predation,
thanks to the efforts of plant breeders and an indigenous
Managing these pests costs potato growers some
$120 million each year, and chemicals are becoming less effective
because of increasing insect resistance.
Researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca,
New York., are working with Solanum berthaultii, a wild Bolivian
potato. When touched, glandular hairs on the leaves of the
plant release a clear chemical that immediately begins darkening
and turning sticky, due to the enzyme polyphenol oxidase.
This substance acts much like flypaper to trap the insects
that feed on potatoes.
This defense works with varying success rates
against the United States' most serious potato pest, the Colorado
potato beetle, as well as against many other potato foes,
according to the researchers' data. While the gluey substance
isn't sticky enough to actually entrap Colorado potato beetles,
it does help reduce or delay their growth, maturation, and
reproductive capacity by encouraging them to feed less and
Fishy Grass Control - Grass carp are popular
in the landscape market because they eat aquatic weeds. The
grass carp strip ponds of all vegetation and eliminate the
need for chemical weed control. However, if populations are
not controlled, these fish can destroy plant species other
fish require. For that reason, they are illegal in 28 states!
Killer Nematodes - 2 genera, of bug-eating
nematodes Steinernema and Heterorhabditis, show promise. They
occur naturally all over the world, are known to be destructive
to hundreds of species of harmful insects and yet are not
harmful to plants, humans, animals, birds or earthworms.
Nematodes prey on insects that live underground
during some stage in their life cycles. They actually seek
out their prey, entering through natural openings and releasing
pathogenic bacteria into the blood. Typically, the insect
dies within 48 hours. The nematodes breed inside their host,
depositing eggs that produce another generation to seek out
and destroy other hosts such as grubs, pillbug larvae, sod
webworms, cutworms and mole crickets, to name a few.
The infective stage of the nematodes are formed
in the body of the dead host insect, then leave the host and
are able to persist in moist soil for months without infesting
a host. They are highly resistant to chemicals and natural
toxins in the soil. Their movement and search activity is
optimal in moist, sandy soils. Persistence can be reduced
in dry soils, during extreme temperatures and in the presence
of toxic pesticides, pathogens and predators.
Nematodes are applied by simply adding them
to water in a conventional spray system and applying them
as a spray over the infested area. As the nematodes are highly
resistant to most chemicals, a well-rinsed sprayer should
be adequate. Post-treatment irrigation to prevent desiccation
and facilitate movement into the soil is needed.
Fungal Death to Fire Ants - In Brazil, a fungus that for the
first time killed fire ant nests may work in this country
as well. This is the first introduction of a fungus into a
fire ant nest with positive results. The fungus was isolated
from a site in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Soil samples
from an empty nest revealed that the soil was loaded with
fungal spores. The fungus was taken from an area where it
naturally occurs, cultured and introduced into uninfected
fire ant nests. The fungus grew inside the nest and killed
For more biological and organic pest controls,
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR
THIRD WEEK OF DECEMBER 2002
QUESTION: I would like to obtaining information about paper
shell pecan trees. I want to plant 25 acres of trees and I
need information about buying and planting pecans trees. The
area I am going to plant will be near Kemp by Cedar Creek
lake. Can you provide me with this information or tell me
were to get it?
ANSWER: Everything you need to know is available
at the following Plantanswers site:
Are you sure you want to plant 25 acres?? The
problem is that it becomes a unit size issue. There is a point
where you become too big to be economical. You will need a
lot of equipment for 25 acres. However, the amount of equipment
for these 25 acres would also handle 100 acres. However, 100
acres is too much for one man to handle. I would rather see
you plant maybe one acre that you could adequately care for
and do a good job with. The small guys who shell and retail
their pecans do a lot better than the bigger orchards.
QUESTION: I presently have a 40-tree natural pecan grove that
has produced well in the past. It is my intention to improve
its production by growing and transplanting seedlings. However
I have been searching for information about nut germination
and the ideal conditions to do so. Is there any information
that you could provide for me to review? Finding the seedlings
at a reasonable price in this area is very expensive since
they are all being sold by landscape nurseries. Is there a
quality company that provides quality Choctaw pecan seedlings?
Also, I would be interested in a good grafting technique.
ANSWER: The easiest way to grow seedling pecan trees is to
place the nuts in the ground in December or January, and let
Mother Nature do the job of stratification for you. Therefore,
I would take Choctaw pecans, soak them in water for about
3 hours, occasionally stirring the water to keep oxygen in
the water. Then dig a row and plant them about 2 to 4 inches
deep. Space the nuts about 1 foot apart. Water them thoroughly
and then forget about them until next spring. Be on the lookout
for predators such as squirrels as they may try to dig the
nuts out of the ground. If they become a problem, cover the
row with hardware cloth to prevent the digging.
The nuts could also be placed in containers.
However, the containers would need to be watered about every
3 to 4 weeks. Also the media needs to be well drained. I would
use 3- gallon containers and put 3 to 4 nuts in each container.
Womack's Nursery in DeLeon, Texas (phone: 254-893-6497)
sells Apache seedlings, 2 to 3 foot, for $3-4.
All you ever wanted to know about grafting is
available at the following Plantanswers site:
QUESTION: Are poinsettia's poisonous to children and pet's?
If so what would be the best way to keep cats away from the
plants? Are cats attracted to these plants?
ANSWER: This is a previous Q&A to a similar
question that can be found at this PLANTanswers web site:
Question: Is a poinsettia poisonous?
Answer: According to the Parkland Poison Control
Information Center, the average person would have to eat 500
to 700 poinsettia leaves before they would have a serious
problem. Of course, some people are more sensitive than others.
So, one leaf may cause some digestive problems to a very sensitive
person. Poinsettias are members of the euphorbia family and
white, milky latex sap may cause eye and skin irritations
in people sensitive to the sap. These plants are best classified
as "possibly toxic" and not "poisonous".
In reference to your cat, I searched the web
on plants toxic to animals and found this site:
It does not list poinsettia as being toxic.
To keep the cat out of plants you don't want him in, perhaps
you should grow some catnip as an alternative.
QUESTION: What is the best way to protect cactus
plants such as cercus and tall euphorbias from winter weather,
especially, when the plants are in pots?
ANSWER: Certainly the best protection would
be to bring them inside to a well-lighted location or bring
them into a heated greenhouse. However, realizing that this
is not always possible, the plants must be protected from
freezing. This can be achieved by moving the plants into a
such as against the south wall of a house. If the temperature
is going to drop below freezing for any length of time, the
plant should be covered with a cardboard box, blanket or other
protecting material. A mechanic's light, a string of Christmas
lights or something similar can be placed around the plants
for additional protection. This PLANTanswers web site provides
information on the care of Cactus and while your plants are
actually succulents and not cactus, the article is still relevant:
QUESTION: I am a 7th grade student at Paragon Prep Middle
School in Austin. We are currently doing a project on planting
bulbs and comparing growth rates in different soils and climactic
conditions. I need the scientific names (genus and species)
for the following bulbs: 1. paperwhite narcissus 2. red onion
3. yellow onions
ANSWER: Your question is a good one because
both the Narcissus and the Allium genuses contain many species.
The paperwhite narcissus is Narcissus tazetta. All edible
onions are Allium cepa with many named cultivars. For example
one of the yellows is Allium cepa 'Grano 1015Y' which is the
Texas Supersweet Onion. A red would be Allium cepa 'Southpoint
Red Globe'. Since I do not know what cultivars you are using
for your project, you will have to supply that name. Allium
cepa ( 'name').
QUESTION: I am looking for some information on growth patterns
of Setcreasea pallida. I am trying to find whether this perennial
grows better in the sunlight or shade, and the temperatures
most suitable for growth. I have land that has both shade
and sun spaces where I want to plant with this flower.
ANSWER: Purple Heart (Setcresia pallida) is
a very versatile plant, growing in shade or sun. It loves
hot weather and can exist with very little supplemental water.
Like most plants, it looks better when happy and that means
watering it when the leaves start to curl. This PLANTanswers
web site has info about Purple Heart:
Purple Heart (sometimes called Purple Jew)-The
plant that "de-uglied" South Central Texas during
the horrid heat and drought of '96. Purple Heart is in the
Genus Setcreasea which has 9 species of the spiderwort family
melinaceae. Purple Heart was discovered in a window box at
the Tampico, Mexico airport and named in the early 1950's
by a Puerto Rican nurseryman. In 1955, the newcomer was described
and given the scientific name Setcreasea purpurea but later
redefined as a variety of Setcreasea pallida. Setcreaseas
are more or less succulent, trailing, clambering, or erect
with thick-ish roots and fleshy stems. The lavender to purple
flowers are in terminal clusters, each partly enveloped by
a pair of leaf bracts. Purple Heart is a native to dry and
semi-desert parts of Mexico. It is trailer or creeper with
the young parts of its shoots erect. In warmer parts of Texas,
the plants never freeze so the planting can become overgrown
and "snaky". In colder climates, the plant is root
hardy -- the top freezes and is removed but it re-sprouts
from the roots. It has the attractive purple shoots during
the hottest, driest part of the summer. Gardeners who live
in warmer climates can enjoy the same beauty from this plant
by mowing it off or raking the tops away every winter. It
is a beautiful purple plant which lives in shade or sun; with
little or no water. It can be weeded (if bermuda grass dares
invade its territory) with a 1/2 strength glyphosate (Roundup,
Kleanup) spray, and has a pretty little bloom at the tip of
each stem. Many have called this plant Purple Jew because
it is in the Wandering Jew family, but we prefer the name
QUESTION: I know exactly nothing about trees in general, especially
pecan trees. I purchased a few acres next to my Dad's place
in Woodville, Texas a few years ago. It came with 7 large
and sickly looking pecan trees. I say "sickly" because
they do not produce any pecans, are not bushy, were being
choked out by thick underbrush and vines and have large trunks
about 7 or 8 feet high which turn into several long spinally
limbs. This leads me to believe they have been growing wild
(without care) for several years. I am asking for some help
in determining what is wrong with them. Do I prune them? Where
do I start with getting these trees back in better shape so
that one year I can see some pecans!
ANSWER: You are exactly right; the pecan trees
were being CHOKED OUT by the surrounding vines, trees and
vegetation. By cleaning out this underbrush, you have now
given the trees a fighting chance. Pruning is not required
per se to rejuvenate the trees. Simply remove low hanging
limbs which are in the way, have broken, are weak, etc. The
most important thing you need to do for the trees is feed
them. They have essentially been starved for nutrition due
to the intense competition around the tree. Nitrogen fertilizer
is the main element the trees will need. Apply 1 pound of
nitrogen fertilizer per 1 inch of trunk diameter in late March.
Do this for each tree. Spread the fertilizer from the drip
line of the tree out. Try to apply it ahead of a rains that
will take it into the ground. Once you get the trees growing
again, you may want to think about applying zinc fertilizer
as well. The best means of application is with a foliar spray.
However, they now sell a product called Pecan King chelated
zinc, which can be applied to the ground. Keep the vegetation
in check with low mowing during the growing season.
Once the trees are actively growing again in
2 to 3 years, you may want to think about pest management.
Further information is available at the following Plantanswers
QUESTION: I have a question regarding earth worms. I am just
re-taking a rental property back from tenants. They had 15
cats, 4rabbits, and 3 dogs in one small yard. I need to spray
the yard for all the fleas and bacteria in the fecal matter.
Someone has suggested Dursban. There happen to be a lot of
earthworms and I am afraid this will kill them. Do you have
ANSWER: Malathion is used by worm producers to kill mites
on the worms without damaging the worm population. The Malathion
should give good control for the fleas and other pests in
the soil. Malathion are insecticides and will not control
bacteria in fecal matter -- I don't think that will be a problem.
Many of the common insecticides do have some toxicity to earthworms;
however toxicity effects are always temporary at best. Sevin
probably has a higher toxicity to earthworms, but studies
show that even where the most toxic insecticides are used,
earthworm populations recover after several weeks. Dursban
should be OK, as it tends to bind tightly to soil particles
in the top inch of the soil profile. Beneficial nematodes
are an "organic" option in sensitive environments;
although results may not be as dramatic as many of the synthetic
pesticides. For more information on safer flea control, see
the factsheet posted at:
These products are ineffective, by the way,
on bacteria and other microorganisms. Malathion is an insecticide
and it will not control bacteria in fecal matter -- I don't
think that will be a problem.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you knew if the umbrella tree
ANSWER: I'm not sure whicht specific tree you
are referring to. The tree commonly known as Chinaberry (Melia
azedarach) is sometimes called the Texas Umbrella Tree. If
this is the tree you mean, then the answer is yes. See this
which gives this information:
Plant Description- Deciduous tree; leaves alternate,
2-pinnately divided with toothed, pointed leaflets; flowers
small but numerous in large terminal clusters, lilac-colored;
fruit a yellowish, wrinkled drupe persisting through the winter.
Distribution- Cultivated and naturalized.
Where Found- Weedy in disturbed areas; naturalized
at edges of roads, in openings in forests and natural areas;
in landscape used as an ornamental tree.
Mode Ingestion- Poisonous Part: Fruits and tea
Symptoms- Stomach irritation, vomiting, bloody
diarrhea, paralysis, irregular breathing and respiratory distress.
Toxic Principle- Tetranortriterpene neurotoxins;
also possibly a saponin.
Severity- Toxic only if large quantities are
QUESTION: I recently heard a story about a flower that was
different from most flowers. After it opened, it released
a pungent odor instead of the usual pleasant fragrance, but
only for a few hours. After that it closed up for about 33
years. Is there such a flower? If so, do you know what it
is called? It just sounded interesting.
ANSWER: I can only assume that this is the
Amorphophallus, the giant aroid from Sumatra. While it does
take some years to reach flowering size, not sure whether
it's 33 years. Homeowners can purchase related specimens under
the name of "Voodoo Lily". Ron Diederman at the
AtlantaBotanical Gardens has several specimens of the giant
species. They are pollinated by flies.
QUESTION: We own a lawn sprinkler company in Dallas and each
year I send out a newsletter to our custo. I try to include
interesting and informative information. I have a couple of
questions if you have time to answer or give me resources.
# 1) My customers say that when you try to determine
the casue for plant stress, both indoor and outdoor, the common
answer is either over or under watering. How do you decide
which it is? Are there signs related ONLY to over water and
ONLY under water?
ANSWER: Plant stress is caused by damage or
malfunction of a life-sustaining system. Too much water causes
root damage-root rot, which interferes with the uptake of
nutrients and water. Because the uptake system is damaged
and malfunctioning, the symptoms expressed by the plant are
identical to those of a plant that has been externally deprived
of nutrients and water. So, a root-rotting, drowning plant
exhibits the very same symptoms as those of a drought-stricken,
under-fertilized plant -- the top (foliage) of the plant only
recognizes the fact that it is not receiving the life sustaining
products it desperately needs. The death is the same and does
not express the causal symptom. If someone has been watering
REAL often, you naturally assume the plant is being over?watered;
if someone has not been watering at all, you naturally assume
the plant is dying of thirst. The best way to water plants
is not to water the plant at all, but water the growing medium
instead. Keep the growing medium (whether soil or potting
mix) moist, BUT NEVER wet or dry. The best probe to use is
your index finger stuck into the growing medium on a regular
# 2) The new "fad" seems to be lawn
aeration. Is it necessary and when, why and in what types
ANSWER: "Fad" is not the proper word;
it should be "necessity" rather than fad! Most educators
have been negligent in their insistence on the benefits of
aeration. To prove it to yourself, check out the PLANTanswers
sites furnished by Dr. Richard Duble which makes PLANTanswers
the best source of turfgrass information on the World Wide
Web. Use the "Find" function under "Edit"
to search for aerate in sites:
(Water Management in Turf, by Duble)
(the Fertilization section, by Duble)
(the Bermuda Grass section, by Duble)
and you will see just how important aeration
really is for all aspects of turf culture and disease prevent.
If you use the computer at all, you know you
can spend HOURS, and I have, searching the Internet only to
be linked to other areas, and so on and so on.
Try surfing on over to this site:
and find EVERY horticulture page in EVERY land
grant University in the U.S. and Canada for "lawn aeration".
There you will find substantiation of Dr. Duble's information
all over the world.
QUESTION: I'm currently visiting my mom and stepdad in Texas
and we've been discussing WHY a tomato is considered a fruit.
And, what's the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?
I've searched the Web (and searched and searched) and you
seem to be the experts!
ANSWER: You just weren't searching in the right
place. Everything you need to know is located at the following
Basically the tomato is a vegetable because
the U.S. Supreme Court said it was!!
QUESTION: We are evaluating whether to erect glass or plastic
greenhouses to grow tomatoes. There is a very large economic
advantage to go with plastic, however one question that nobody
can answer relates to what "light" the tomatoes
like. Do you know of any research that defines the light requirement
parameters under which tomatoes grow best? Somebody posed
the question "How come, when I look up through glass,
I can see the clouds perfectly well, but when I look through
plastic, it is all blurry?"
ANSWER: Tomatoes grow best a very high light intensity (10,000
to 12,000 foot candles). That is the typical light intensity
at noon on a clear day on the Texas High Plains where the
sun shines very brightly. Tomatoes must have high light intensity
in the visible red (about 700 nanometers wave length) and
blue range (about 400 nanometers wave length) to grow well
and produce a heavy fruit load. A tomato leaf is light-saturated
(as far as optimum intensity is concerned) at around 2,000
foot-candles. Because tomato leaves overlap, plants respond
to high incident light intensity. Many lower and inner tomato
leaves of trellised tomato plants that receive suboptimal
light intensity are actually parasitic because they use more
energy and photosynthate than they produce. Plastics suitable
for greenhouse glazing should transmit over 90 percent of
incidental sunlight in the range I mentioned above. The better
grades contain ultra violent inhibitors which extend useful
life to 2 or 3 seasons. Plastic film diffuses light rays,
and objects viewed through plastic appear hazy even though
the plastic film transmits most of the light. Glass glazing
crystals are oriented in such a way that the images and colors
come straight through to our eyes. I'm not a physicist, but
I think I'm describing the phenomenon satisfactorily. To be
certain that you are getting the correct quality of plastic
for your greenhouse, buy it from a reputable greenhouse supply
--Dr. Roland Roberts, Retired Extension Horticulturist,
QUESTION: I have a half-dozen young pine trees (approximately
6 to 7 years old and approximately 15 to 16 feet tall). They
are turning yellow, and then to brown. Excessive are needles
falling to the ground leaving the trees barren. What could
the problem be? Could the unusually "wet" weather
be a contributing factor? What can I do to save my trees?
ANSWER: Dr. Mark Black - Extension Plant Pathologist, writes:
The problem is probably iron deficiency complicated
by the excessive rains since mid-August. You didn't say what
kind of pine tree this is, but from the symptoms, it is probably
loblolly pine from East Texas. They typically thrive for a
few years, then start yellowing and dropping needles as the
roots get deeper into your alkaline soil in Somerset.
Options for other pine species are not ideal.
Afghan pine in the San Antonio area is having severe problems
with Diplodia canker, a fungal disease that kills branch tips
and needles. Pinon pine from West Texas is slow growing, and
is apparently also susceptible to Diplodia canker.
QUESTION: Some of my live oaks are splitting,
either at a bifurcation or along the top surface of a large
limb that is bending toward the ground. Is there something
that I should place within the split or a treatment to arrest
ANSWER: It sounds like the limbs are getting too large to
be supported by the tree. The best way to prevent this problem
would to reduce the length of the limbs. This is best done
by cutting them back to a main branch. Do not just "top"
the limbs in the middle of the branch. Over the years, some
folks have gone to the trouble of propping up the limbs to
prevent this breakage. However, I think it is best to shorten
the limbs and/or remove narrow crotch angles to prevent this
type of damage. Also, keep the trees in a healthy state with
water and fertilizer.
QUESTION: What do you think of the over-the-counter
termite bait stakes sold under the trade name Spectracide
ANSWER: Here's an update on the progress and
issues surrounding this product. Bottom line- There's not
a whole lot of data to support product claims.
From The Washington Post:
A Legal Skirmish in a Larger War Against Termites
By John Schwartz
(Thursday, December 3, 1998; Page T10)
Any homeowner watching the hit movie "Antz"
identify with the dread of the ant soldiers during the
battle with the termite horde. After all, they face the
potential of a similar attack in their own homes.
More than 600,000 U.S. homes each year suffer
damage; the $1.5 billion annual price tag is higher than
that caused by fires, storms and earthquakes combined,
according to the National Pest Control Association.
So when a St. Louis company offered a relatively
inexpensive do-it-yourself system for getting rid of the
critters last February, consumers snapped it up. United
Industries Corp. markets the Terminate home defense
system through nationwide home improvement chains
such as Home Depot, Lowe's and Wal-Mart. "Simply
place the bait stakes in the ground around your home and
Terminate does the work," ads promised.
Company ads and brochures claimed the system
not only prevent infestation, it also could eliminate
active infestation and was just as effective as expensive
treatments by professional exterminators. And all for
less than $70, compared with hundreds or more for a
Sound too good to be true? The Federal Trade
Commission and attorneys general from eight
states--including Maryland and Virginia--think so, and
have filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to
make the company rewrite its product claims. The other
states joining the suit are Florida, Georgia, Kentucky,
New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas.
"Just the thought of termites strikes
fear in the hearts of
homeowners," said Jodie Bernstein, director of the
FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, when she
announced the agency action in October. Noting that the
insects can cause thousands of dollars' worth of damage
to homes, Bernstein said, "Consumers shouldn't be bitten
twice--once by termites and a second time by deceptive
claims about a termite bait system."
Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, announcing
his action against the company, said, "I don't want
Maryland consumers to get a false sense of security
when there's a chance they're being misled. We don't
want this company eating away at their pocketbooks
when it's possible that termites are still eating away at
their homes and they don't realize it."
The company said it would fight the FTC in
stand behind and support our products, label claims and
advertising," said Jim Olsen, director of the termite
products division for United Industries.
Fear of termites has been an important part
of just about
every exterminator's marketing pitch. The Terminate
brochure is no exception, warning that "just because
haven't seen termites doesn't mean your home isn't at risk
from their invisible threat. Because termites rarely come
to the surface of the wood they are eating, it is often
impossible to know if you have termites until severe
damage is done." Television ads for Terminate open
with a voice-over saying, "To you, it's your castle,"
followed by crunching, chewing sounds. "To millions of
termites, it's an all-you-can-eat buffet."
The ads close with a warning: "Before
it's too late . . .
The case is pending, with no courtroom date
set for a
hearing on the agency's request for a preliminary
injunction, said Dean C. Graybill, associate director for
service industry practices at the FTC's Bureau of
Consumer Protection. "They simply do not have
scientific support for those claims at the time they made
those claims," Graybill said.
Olsen of United disputed the FTC allegation.
made about the product are accurate and substantiated,"
he said, and based on filings reviewed by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. "We believe this
product is a big win for homeowners, who have never
had a choice in this category before."
An EPA spokeswoman said that the agency's review
focused more on safety than on efficacy, and not at all on
advertising claims. "The decision was that FTC would
take the lead" on that aspect of the case.
According to the FTC, the product appears to
effect on active infestation and is not a
set-it-and-forget-it system: It "requires substantial
monitoring and repurchase," Graybill said. The product
also is not effective against drywood termites or the
voracious species known as Formosan termites, the FTC
Some states have not allowed United to sell
David Scott of Indiana's environmental agency said, "We
needed to see some efficacy data that would show that a
homeowner could go buy this stuff, follow the directions
and expect to be successful in controlling or repelling
termites. We have not been provided with that, at least
up to this point."
Some professional exterminators do use bait
systems--and one such system uses the same chemicals
found in Terminate, said Carl Falco of North Carolina's
Department of Agriculture and president of the national
Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory
Officials. But the professional product holds itself out as
only part of a complete termite control system, does not
claim to totally eliminate termite colonies and calls for
regular reapplication. "Termite control is not as easy
[Terminate's] brochures and the label and literature
imply," Falco said.
Bob Rosenberg agrees. Rosenberg, who heads
government affairs for the Dunloring, Va.-based National
Pest Control Association, said getting rid of termites
simply isn't a do-it-yourself job. His group represents
professional exterminators, so Rosenberg admitted that
his advice is "a little self-serving." But, he insisted,
"Killing bugs is not easy. Killing some bugs is easier
than others. Nothing's more difficult than killing termites
that I know."
The reason, Rosenberg said, is that termites are so good
at what they do. They hide beautifully, taking up
residence in the ground and inside walls. Most
professional exterminators set up a chemical barrier
around the foundation of the house, taking advantage of
the creatures' need to migrate back and forth between the
soil and the house.
Drywood termites require a different treatment:
exterminators enshroud houses in plastic tents for a
Termite control is "the single job of
bug eradication that
ought to be left to somebody who knows what they're
doing," Rosenberg said.
"It may not be obvious till you put your
foot through a
floorboard," Rosenberg said, but "the consequences
failure are pretty significant."
John Schwartz writes for The Post's National
specializing in science.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
Extension Urban Entomologist
Texas A&M Research and Extension Center
17360 Coit Rd
Dallas, TX 75252-6599